Grid Kids Football

<p>Players on the third-fourth grade gold team practice passing routes at Highland Hills Elementary on Monday.</p>

At Highland Hills Elementary School, Monday afternoon, young boys were learning.

At the south end of the field, third- and fourth-graders learned how to run pass routes, how do defend, how to run a play. At the north end, they were learning how to take a hand-off, how to cut into the right hole, how to block.

It was a fundamental display of football basics, and teaching youth how to master a complex, yet simple game of football is part of the Grid Kids football program is about.

“The focus of the program, for us, is the kids, obviously, (teaching) fundamental football and building a football program,” Mike Ramirez, who coaches the Cowboys in the fifth- and sixth-grade division, said. “That’s one of the biggest things. It’s nice to win, but the biggest focus for us is to teach some football. That’s really what we want to instill in them: to be better football players so our middle school coaches are getting fundamental, good kids. It starts down here, regardless what you say.”

At his team’s practice Monday, Ramirez worked with the offensive line on proper blocking technique and correct “play-side” steps for blocking. When the skill guys met back up with the O-line, tackling was not permitted, even though they had pads on.

They aren’t concerned with collisions and physicality. Coaches just want to teach the kids how to play the game.

“Small things, from stemming a route to a zone block, or to get up to the next level when you’re on the line,” Ramirez said. “Or from a running back perspective, you watch. You’re on the hip, and you’re watching for a cut back. We’re trying to teach a lot of different things.”

It’s pretty advanced stuff for fifth- and sixth-graders.

“They pick it up quick, though,” Ramirez said.

Although football is the focus, he said coaches want to make their players better: better citizens, better people.

“(We want) to teach them character, how to be a teammate, no individuals, really, because that goes a long way,” he said. “We all try to teach them to be good kids.”

Ramirez isn’t alone in this endeavor. His cousins and various players’ fathers come help out, holding blocking bags or being an extra body. The Cowboys’ practice Monday had 22 children and about eight coaches, the majority of whom were on the field for no other reason than they wanted to help.

Ramirez said the best thing about coaching for him is seeing the children succeed, maturing and becoming better football players.

“You’re only as strong as your last guy,” Ramirez said. “We’re on ’em, but we’re trying to make ’em better.”

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